The Year in Review – 2017


by Ken Bakely

Another twelve months have come and gone. 2017 was an active and unpredictable year, much like any other, but the speed and uncontrolled nature through which information flowed online – and into the media cycle– amplified the intensity and confusion that surrounded major events. The political turmoil and unrest that has marked prior years continued, and propelled the bickering therein.

So let’s be thankful for the power of art and creativity. Be it a TV show, book, movie, album, or something else entirely, these cultural works captured the zeitgeist, turning raw emotions into refined expressions and establishing a reference point for future generations. Whether you traveled to a theater to take in a live performance, took refuge in the air-conditioned auditoriums of your multiplex, camped out in front of your TV to binge watch the latest craze, or plugged in your headphones to listen your new favorite tunes, you participated in the pop cultural moment. And with the increased consciousness that we share when absorbing current events, your media choices carried a message in a year marked by demonstrations, movements, and calls for change the world over.

This year, I’m doing something different. Instead of counting down the top 15 movies I reviewed, I’m going to focus on 2017 titles, whether I reviewed them or not. Note that there are many titles I have yet to see, and so this list is only a snapshot of where my opinions stand as of December 31, 2017. There are four lists here: 10 favorites, 7 that I appreciated but didn’t love as much as everyone else, my 5 least favorite, and 3 “underrated” picks.

Top Ten

(Simple enough; listed alphabetically. A boldfaced title denotes my top pick for the year.)

Personal Shopper
Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)
Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
Mudbound (Dee Rees)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

(I have written about all of these films except Lady Bird. While I regret that I couldn’t find the time to write a review, I may seek out an opportunity share some thoughts about it in the new year.)

Sideways Seven

(Not bad movies at all, just a handful of ubiquitous films – whether in the commercial or critical sense – that I didn’t adore as much as everyone else. Many of them I liked. I mention them here simply to acknowledge that I have seen them, and “clear space”, so to speak, for my Top 10. Inspired, in part, by Richard Brody’s Negative Ten. Listed alphabetically.)

The Meyerowitz Stories
Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman)
Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda) – But Lois Smith is spectacular.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach)
Novitiate (Margaret Betts) – a.k.a. Melissa Leo in Change Is Scary, Right?
Okja (Bong Joon Ho) – The first half is a total blast, though.
Raw (Julia Ducournau) – Maybe the year’s best final scene, though? Or even final line of dialogue?
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins)

Faulted Five

(Bottom five movies of 2017, listed alphabetically.)

Death Note
Adam Wingard’s Death Note

Death Note (Adam Wingard)
The Dinner (Oren Moverman)
Geostorm (Dean Devlin) – But see it.
#RealityHigh (Fernando Lebrija) – But see it.
You Get Me (Brent Bonacorso)

Time for Three

(Three movies that, whether I particularly liked them or not, I felt were unduly ignored/dismissed in the conversation – whether critical or commercial – and deserve to be seen.)

Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Gook (Justin Chon)
Sylvio (Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson)

So that’s a look through what 2017’s cinematic offerings meant to me. I’ll be playing more catch-up as we head into the start of next year, and will likely write reviews of many of my favorite films out of that bunch. Until then, onwards and upwards into 2018.